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Morning Headlines: Daily COVID-19 Cases Plummet Due to Reporting Issues; First Vaccines Given at Three More Hospitals

syringe and vile of medicine
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Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth Medical Center and the Cleveland VA began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to employees on Wednesday. The health system received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and is able to store the doses in 16 ultra-cold freezers.

Here are your morning headlines for Thursday, December 17:

  • Daily COVID-19 cases plummet due to reporting issues
  • First vaccines given at three more hospitals
  • Legal action aims to prevent Willoughby-Eastlake schools from laying off 200
  • Low-orbit satellites key to new Ohio broadband pilot
  • Court: Ohio must allow gender changes on birth certificates
  • Mail delivery delays worsen in Northeast Ohio
  • Northern Ohio US Attorney announces January resignation
  • Union workers cry foul over health benefit cuts
  • Legislation to rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station clears final hurdle
  • Cleveland Foundation awards $34M in grants
  • Cavs’ Larry Nance Jr. has a plan to help small businesses

Daily COVID-19 cases plummet due to reporting issues
Ohio reported a significant drop in the number of new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday at roughly 5,400. But state officials say the number was artificially low due to "technological difficulties" that prevented labs from reporting all cases. The state's current three-week average is around 9,600 new cases a day. Federal guidelines suggest a true downward trend consists of 14 consecutive days with fewer cases. Meanwhile, the 123 new reported deaths on Wednesday is tied for the fifth most in a day.

First vaccines given at three more hospitals
Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth Medical Center and the Cleveland VA began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to employees on Wednesday. The Cleveland Clinic received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine that it's able to store in 16 ultra-cold freezers. One of the first at MetroHealth to receive the vaccine was Dr. Sherrie D. Williams, a pulmonary and critical care specialist who works in the ICU.

Legal action aims to prevent Willoughby-Eastlake schools from laying off 200
Legal action is underway to try to prevent the Willoughby-Eastlake School District from laying off more than 200 employees. The school board last month approved laying off custodians, maintenance workers and food service workers while district buildings are closed for remote learning during the pandemic. The Ohio Association of Public School Employees has filed a complaint in Lake County Common Pleas Court seeking an injunction, saying Ohio law requires classified employees be paid during an epidemic and that the district has no financial reason for the layoffs. It also says the employees will be required to pay as much as $1,900 a month for health insurance. A judge on Wednesday did not issue the injunction, but ordered both sides prepare legal arguments for a ruling by the end of the month.

Low-orbit satellites key to new Ohio broadband pilot
Low-orbiting satellites circling less than 600 miles above Earth are key to a new broadband technology Ohio will test early next year. Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Wednesday that if the pilot project is successful it can help the state get service to Ohio's remote regions. Particularly in Appalachia, a lack of high speed internet has stymied economic development, education and health care for decades. The $200,000 project will deliver Starlink satellite broadband service developed by SpaceX to 90 households and 10 small businesses in central Ohio's Union County, northwest of Columbus. All participants are underserved by broadband.

Court: Ohio must allow gender changes on birth certificates
A federal court says Ohio can’t keep refusing to allow people to change the gender listings on their birth certificates. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio says the birth certificate rule imposed by the state Department of Health and the Office of Vital Statistics is unconstitutional. Ohio was weighing an appeal. Judge Michael Watson rejected the state of Ohio’s arguments that the policy prevents fraud and maintains historical accuracy as “thinly veiled” excuses for discrimination. Plaintiff Stacie Ray claimed victory for the LGBT community. Ohio was one of the last two states to prohibit such changes.

Mail delivery delays worsen in Northeast Ohio
Mail delivery in Northeast Ohio is still seeing significant delays according to the post office’s quarterly performance review. Heading into the holiday rush, the district is seeing on time delivery rates as low as 65%. Cleveland.com reports that the post office refused to answer questions on the cause, but the region’s high rates of coronavirus transmission could be a factor. A survey this summer showed the Northern Ohio postal district was the third slowest in the country.

Northern Ohio US Attorney announces January resignation
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio has announced he will resign Jan. 8. Justin Herdman was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017. First Assistant Bridget Brennan will serve as acting U.S. attorney until President-elect Joe Biden's choice for the position is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Union workers cry foul over health benefit cuts
Union workers at one of Ohio’s nuclear power plants say their owner is cutting health benefits in violation of a bankruptcy deal. Cleveland.com reports that unionized mechanics, operators, and maintenance workers at Perry Nuclear plant say Energy Harbor is violating the deal brokered last year that included health coverage. The news comes as lawmakers in Ohio struggle with what to do with a tainted nuclear bailout bill at the center of a federal racketeering investigation. Energy Harbor, formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions, did not comment on the union’s claims. Energy Harbor earlier this year repurchased $800 million worth of shares in efforts to boost its stock price. Unless lawmakers act in the next few days Ohio ratepayers will see a new fee added to electricity bills as part of a $1 billion bailout package passed last year.

Legislation to rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station clears final hurdle
NASA's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky is closer to getting a new name. The U.S. House on Wednesday passed a Senate bill to rename the facility after Ohio native Neil Armstrong, who was the first man to walk on the Moon. The legislation now heads for President Trump's signature. NASA tested its newest spacecraft, Orion, at Plum Brook.

Cleveland Foundation awards $34M in grants
The Cleveland Foundation has announced $34 million in grants to support residents in Cuyahoga, Lake, and Geauga counties. Organizations awarded the highest amounts of funding include $500,000 to DigitalC, an initiative to expand internet access to the Fairfax neighborhood, and $350,000 for the Cleveland Food Bank.

Cavs’ Larry Nance Jr. has a plan to help small businesses
Cavs player Larry Nance Jr. has come up with a way to help Cleveland small businesses struggling during the pandemic. Nance is asking people to send items like shirts and hats from their favorite local businesses to the Cavs practice facility. He'll wear them on game nights and spread word about the business on his social media channels. The Akron native also says he’ll be auctioning off his game worn jerseys this season and donating all proceeds to the small business’s apparel that he’s wearing that night.